Saving Money in the Kitchen
Over the past few months I have watched the prices in the grocery store climb higher. This has made me have to stop and reevaluate our current eating and spending habits and see where I can trim the budget. I thought I would share a few of the tips that I have been incorporating into our budget.
First off years ago I started keeping a price book. I checked the prices at the different stores I shop to see who had the better price on napkins, pasta, hamburger, milk, eggs, etc.. Soon I had this price list memorized pretty well. I knew what store had the best price on which items. The only thing to remember is to recheck this list periodically. One of the first things I did was to re-check these prices to make sure they were still a good deal and not take them for granted. Another thing I have been doing is to stop buying or buy less of very expensive items. When I saw mozzarella cheese rise higher and higher, we took a break from pizza and lasagna. This was the same with the cheddar cheese although I did not see it jump as high as the mozzarella cheese. So with the cheddar I looked at how much we had been using and determined to use half this amount. I simply did not make as many meals with cheddar cheese in them as I had and I cautiously used the cheese on other meals. I watched butter climb to over $2.50 per pound at Costco and this was the least expensive price I could find. We don’t eat margarine so instead I limited our butter use to a certain amount per week and we stopped baking foods that called for butter. We also used things like cream cheese on our toast or pancakes instead of butter. Olive oil was also about half the price (per pound) as butter. So when I did bake I would choose things like cakes and quick breads that used oil, or muffins that did not require any fat in them.
As meat prices have climbed I have been serving more soups, breads, beans and whole grains. I usually will serve a couple of bean based meals a week and this has increased to more. My meals are basic and simple and the ingredients inexpensive. I think of the meat in the meal as flavoring, not the main component of the meal. I can make a pot of chili bean soup with 1 pound of hamburger in it and that will feed my family dinner one night and the leftovers will be lunch the next day. I stretch my meals by using my meat in sauces and gravies that are served over brown rice or whole wheat pasta. This also stretches the meat, adds great flavor and served with the whole grains makes a satisfying meal.
I also have tried to determine how much I want to spend per day to feed my family. I have then worked to find out how much each meal is costing us. For instance the chili bean soup served with a pan of cornbread will cost me about $5. Not bad for feeding a family of my size. I also have breakfast meals and lunch meals to consider for my daily cost. In the end I have some meals that are under budget and I have meals that sometimes are over budget. It becomes a matter of working towards an average cost. But I know the more low cost meals I serve in a month the better the average costs will be.
Finally remember to be conscious and be aware. Don’t just throw items into the shopping cart. Buy your foods with a plan. Know what you are spending each week, know what items are costing you and be prepared to make changes in the way you cook and the foods you buy.
Here are a couple of my low cost recipes that help out the monthly food budget at our house!
Crystal’s Chili Bean Soup Crystal Miller
Heat 2 T. oil in large soup pot.
Chop up and add:
1/2 a green pepper, optional
Cook until the onion is soft.
3 cups small red beans
12 cups water
1 Tablespoon salt
Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Stir
occasionally. After beans are soft add:
1 Tablespoon chili powder (more if you like it spicy.. less
if you don’t!)
1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chilies (this brand of
tomatoes is usually found with the other tomatoes at your
local grocery store)
1 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour
¾ cup finely ground cornmeal or corn flour (I grind my own
to a coarse corn flour)
2 T fructose or Sucanat or sugar
2 t baking powder
½ t salt
1 cup milk or buttermilk
¼ cup olive oil
Heat oven to 400. Grease or spray an 8 or 9 inch pan. Mix
milk, oil and egg until well blended. In separate bowl mix
dry ingredients and add to liquid and stir until moistened.
Pour batter into pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until
golden brown. I double this recipe and bake in a 9x13 pan
for 25 minutes (need to check, it could 30minutes).
Copyright: Crystal Miller, 2005
About the Author:
Crystal Miller ( mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org ) is
a mother of 8 children and enjoys her God given role as
wife, homemaker and mother! She has a homemaking and
country living web site called The Family Homestead
newsletter called Homestead Happenings. You will find
sign up information on her website.